For a friend, I recently researched which notebook can be recommended for Ultra HD video editing (4K UHD, 3840 × 2160 px). Here is, in short, what we found.
 
First priority: Intel Core i7-7xxx CPU, as fast as possible
There are three major ways to encode video: with the processor in software (Linux libx264 and libx265 libraries), with the CPU in hardware (using Intel's or AMDs dedicated features for that), or with the GPU in hardware (using Nvidia's NVENC mechanism). The hardware based mechanisms are much faster. For example, one comparison test was 55 fps on a i7-5930K CPU and up to 540 fps on a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 GPU [source]. So a factor of 10 can be expected.
 
However, hardware encoding is somewhat limited in terms of features, so the same video quality will have a bigger file size, or for the same file size, you get less quality. For example, Nvidia NVENC supports B frames (some kind of small, compressed frame type that reduces video size by approx. 30% at the same quality) only in H.264, not in H.265 [source]. So the enthusiast video editor will probably want to do the final encoding runs in software on the CPU, which can be 20 times slower, but gives better quality for the same file sizes. Preview versions can still be created with the CPU or GPU hardware support, but do not need as much computation power as resolutions will be lower. Also, reportedly the primary, most powerful competitors are Intel CPU hardware based encoding on Kaby Lake processors (Core i7-7xxx) and GPU Nvidia Pascal GPU based encoding on Nvidia GeForce GTX 10xx graphics chips, and the best of both are approximately equally powerful. There seems to be better software support for the Nvidia solution though (but that is just a rough impression).
 
As a consequence, when you want the best quality and accept a long final coding run in exchange, the graphics board does not really matter much, it "only" has to be suitable for playing back 4k video and perhaps applying some live effects on them. So even a "previous generation" (Maxwell based) Nvidia GTX 960 will do, as some models have in this list of 4k editing notebooks. You will however want the best and fastest CPU you can get, which (in gamer notebooks) seems to be approx. the Intel Core i7-7600HQ (2.8 GHz).
 
Second priority: display
The next question is what display to get. Choices are between 15" and 17" displays, and for both between Full HD (1920×1080) and 4k Ultra HD (3840×2160) resolutions. Without a 4k display, you obviously can't watch your 4k video in full glory while editing, but even with a 17" 4k display, pixels are so small that there is very little to no optical difference between a Full HD and a 4k Ultra HD display (as reported by gamers). You will have to zoom into frames to see quality differences anyway. But the price difference is sometimes just 200 EUR, which might make the 4k Ultra HD display worth having.
 
Third priority: main memory, mass storage
These things can be upgraded as needed, so you don't do a final decision on purchase. 16 GB DDR4 RAM and a "128 GB SSD plus 1 TB hard disk" combination seem a reasonable minimum though. To speed things up, the SSD should be sufficient for the operating system, software, and the video files of your current project, while the (cheaper and larger) hard disk would hold all the archived video editing projects.

Model recommendations
The most interesting models (high performance but at the lower end of the possible price range) that we found are these:

  • HP Omen OMEN 17-w207ng, 1500 EUR, i7-7600HQ CPU, Nvidia GeForce GPX 1050 Ti, 17" display 3840×2160, 256 GB SSD, 1 TB HDD
  • HP Omen 15-ax202ng, 1300 EUR, i7-7600HQ CPU, Nvidia GPX 1050, 15" display 1920×1080, 256 GB SSD, 1 TB HDD
  • Dell XPS 15 9560, ca. 1600 EUR, i7-7600HQ CPU, 15" display 1920×1080

More interesting information and sources

Just a quick brain dump: more and less useful things you can do with the components of an old electric wheelchair (usually two 24 V DC geared electric motors of 200-400 W each, a motor controller, and batteries).

  • Telepresence robot for tele-farming. The robot would have a video camera and a high resolution still image camera. It would carry PV panels to recharge itself, so would never get completely stuck (but may only be able to move a few hundred meters per day). The robot can be used to inspect the farms and growing conditions for remotely giving advice to smallholder farmers in developing regions. Also, it could allow consumers from so-called developed countries to explore the farms and village where their products come from, without having to travel there. As part of a P2P food monitoring scheme like the Fairdirect Label (which I co-developed), the telepresence robot would allow customers to check whether the farming conditions are as stated.
  • Telepresence robot for "visiting" friends and relatives.
  • Remote gardening robot. So you can grow your food in one place even when living a nomadic life. The robot for this would look like a portal robot, driving above a row of plants.
  • Weeding robot. Would use deep learning based image classifiers to identify weeds.
  • Irrigation robot for gardening.
  • Robotic parcel delivery in a village. Would be a simple line following robot, with a network of lines on sidewalks in the village.
  • Toolsharing robot for multiple villages. At 7-10 km/h it's realistic to let the robot move tools on demand in an area of 5 km diameter (6-8 villages). Delivery time would be at most one hour (going to the village 5 km apart, and coming back). It could be a simple line-following robot, with lines on the ground between villages.
  • Pulling a trailer with load.
  • Solar powered autonomous vehicle. This is more like an art project: an autonomous robot that is left to travel alone forever.
  • Firewood collecting robot.
  • Sstreet sweeper robot. Of course autonomous.
  • Street graffitti robot. CNC painting on the street and other large surfaces. ith spray paint cans, chalk or other means.
  • Telepresence robot for the public. Would be put in some interesting location, like an abandoned industrial area, a refugee camp, or a war zone. It would be controlled by anyone on the Internet who is interested in driving it for a time.
  • Animal herding robot.
  • Open source StreetView mapping robot. In contrast to normal StreetView, it would collect 360° pictures in a grid every 5-10 cm. This allows to fluidly visualize moving from anywhere to anywhere (while keeping eye distance from the floor, of course).
  • Soil mapping robot for agriculture.
  • Autonomous mini library. It would drive around in a city by itself and offer books to anyone who wants them.
  • Sutonomous mini sales cart.
  • Snow pattern maker. Some people create huge, nice geometric patterns in snow by walking them. This would be more efficient.
  • Autonomous terrace farming robot. It would probably be tracked for that purpose.
  • Fertilizer robot. In organic gardening that would mean urine and compost.
  • Load carrying robot that follows a person. Using an optical beacon attached to the person.
  • Drink and food server for a restaurant.
  • Self-driving battery power tool carrier and charger.
  • Storage management robot. Carrying pallets or boxes to storage workers, like Amazon does it in their storage areas.
  • Robotic load carrier for mountain villages. It would move slowly but autonomously between villages. For villages in Nepal which are still often only connected by footpaths, this could be an interesting and economical new logistics infrastructure.
  • Vacuum cleaner robot for indoors.
  • Trash collecting robot for cleaning up outdoors.
  • Camera rig robot.
  • Childrens' toy car. They will love it.
  • Remote surveillance robot for guarding a place. WIth cameras and LED lamps attached.
  • Advertising carrier robot. To be used in pedestrian areas etc..
  • Segway type vehicle. Quite suitable as there are two independently powered wheels normally.

To approach any of these ideas, or your own of course, have a look at some of the more interesting devices people already created out of electric wheelchair parts:

Finally, here are some good technical explanations about how to add remote control to an electric wheelchair:

A friend with a big heart for victims of human trafficking asked me to identify opportunities for helping trafficked women in Europe. As my (initial) results can be useful for others as well, I publish them here. My research focused on work opportunities for English speakers, as opposed to also speaking, say, an Eastern European language. The sections are ordered accordingly: the "most adequate issue" for English speakers to care about comes first.

(1) Issue: Nigerian women trafficked via Italy

Summary: This "trend" is becoming worse and worse since 3-4 years and it is not an understatement to call it a human rights crisis since early 2016. It also seems the most adequate (or one of the most adequate) work opportunity in Europe for social workers and counsellors with English language skills.

The Guardian has a good, recent introduction to the problem, complemented with a little photo documentary. According to that, 11,000 Nigerian women arrived to Italy in 2016, which is double the already high 2015 numbers. And the UN estimates 80% of them will end up in prostitution across Europe. This fate is also reflected by prostitution in Italy itself: as early as 2008, before the "real" start of this crisis, 90% of Italy's sex workers were migrants, of which 40% were from Africa, mostly Nigeria (source). One interesting fact from the Guardian's reporting is that these Nigerian women are brought into Italy as refugees (mostly in small boats via Libya), and remain in South Italy's refugee reception centers for about three months. That is, until they receive documents granting them temporary residence as refugees. So there is a small window of time in a protected setting to identify, contact and inform them about their real situation – before they leave the refugee center to be picked up by their traffickers again. However, the Guardian article also mentions there are only 1600 places for victims of trafficking in Italy, so currently most of the 11,000 women do not receive any help in time.

Language wise, it can be expected that Nigerian women arriving to Italy at least speak basic English: Nigeria has English as its official language and 53% English speakers. Given the many tribal languages in Nigeria, English is seemingly the preferred medium of communication even among Nigerians, as can be observed from the documentary video in the Guardian article. Regarding interaction with Italians, from my own experience getting around in Italy with just English works quite well, though it works much better in Northern Italian cities than in South Italian towns and villages, where even young people sometimes don't speak English. However most of the activities in South Italy would happen in or around the refugee reception centers, where English is the main mode of communication between staff and refugees anyway, and also between national and the many international staff members.

When it comes to organizations working in Italy against human trafficking, a (non-exhaustive) list is as follows:

  • Piam Onlus. An initiative by a Nigerian woman (who is a former victim of trafficking herself) and her Italian husband, focused on the issue of Nigerian women being trafficked via Italy. Since being founded in the early 2000s, they already rescued more than 200 Nigerian women and girls. A small video documentary about them can also be found in the Guardian article that was already linked above. They currently host 80 refugees in both their refugees hub "Villa Quaglina" and various family homes in the Northern Italian city Asti (source). Not all but some of them are victims of trafficking (source), so in this way their infrastructure can be said to be a safe house. Finding out more details and potential volunteering options will need direct contact, though.
  • Caritas Italiana and Caritas Internationalis. The social work organizations of the Roman Catholic Church – means, they are quite large and well-funded. They carry out the Catholic Church's "official" response to human trafficking in Italy (source). Also, these two organizations constitute two of the four Italian members of the COATNET anti-trafficking network (see).
  • WUCWO. The "World Union Of Catholic Women’s Organization". One of the four Italian members of COATNET (see).
  • Talitha Kum. They describe themselves as "International Network of Consecrated life Against Trafficking in Persons". One  of the four Italian members of COATNET (see).
  • COATNET. An Italian ecumenical network that "brings together different Christian organizations against trafficking in human beings" (source). They do not operate safe houses by themselves, but will be a good source of further information.

Obviously, given Italy's religious demographics, >90% of all faith-based organizations working against human trafficking in Italy will be Roman Catholic. To find more of these organizations, an appropriate Italian search term is "cristiani organizzazioni contro tratta di esseri umani".

(2) Issue: Trafficking for sexual exploitation in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Norway

The demographic composition of sex workers in these three countries, but esp. of the UK, makes it another work opportunity for English-speaking social workers and counsellors. (The numbers below are from 2008, as found in the TAMPEP report. Obviously, significant changes could have occurred since then, but more recent numbers are hard to come by.)

  • United Kingdom. 59% of sex workers in 2008 were UK nationals, so would speak English. Of the 41% migrant sex workers, two thirds are from Eastern Europe, and cannot be expected to speak English well initially. However unlike in other countries with this situation, migrant sex workers would learn English over time while in the country. Furthermore, human trafficking in the UK is a rising issue, with a 246% increase over 5 years, resulting in 3266 victims identified in 2015 (source).
  • Belgium. 60% of its sex workers in 2008 were migrants. Of these, 26% came from Western Europe and another 26% from Africa. To communicate with the 40% national sex workers, and for getting around in Belgium in general, English is probably sufficient. Belgium is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual country anyway, with its French and Wallone populations, and most speak English quite well there.
  • Norway. 70% of its sex workers in 2008 were migrants, of which 43% came from Nigeria. This might be however completely different now, as the population in Norway is small, so its sex workers are fewer and change can happen faster.

(3) Issue: Trafficking for sexual exploitation in Germany

In Germany, working in English with victims of human trafficking seems rather difficult due to demographics: 60-70% victims of human trafficking in Germany come from Eastern Europe. Some more data: "Two thirds (612) of all identified victims [of human trafficking in Germany] originated from Eastern Europe: Bulgaria (25,3%), Romania (20,9%), Hungary (7,7%). 20,8% of victims had German nationality." (source, translation my own). Since many of the victims come with a low level of formal education, and English has not been the predominant lingua franca in Eastern European countries for decades, it cannot be expected that they know to speak English. People with Eastern European language skills, of which there are a considerable amount in Germany, seem more apt for this particular work.

Still, for completeness, here are ways to identify organizations working against human trafficking in Germany:

  • Gemeinsam gegen Menschenhandel. A German network whose name translates to "United against Human Trafficking". Their membership organization list is one of the best resources here. Of the 27 member organizations, many seem to be Christian faith-based organizations, and 11 of them are particularly active in practical help "on the ground".
  • KOK. Another German network against human trafficking. They seem to be a Christian faith-based network, though not all member organizations have an equally Christian perspective. They have a list and a map of their member organizations online.
  • Frauenhaus organizations. A Frauenhaus (literally, "women's house") is the German equivalent of a safe house. However, unlike a safe house, it usually focuses on victims of domestic violence. There are specialized ones caring for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation as well, though. In any case, see the (long!) list of Frauenhaus organizations in Germany. Another, partial and mostly overlapping list is found here.
  • Stern list. German magazine "Stern" published this list of organizations caring to help prostitutes leave the business. They may or may not be faith-based organizations.
  • Sisters e.V.. A German association caring to help women leave prostitution. They seem to not operate a safe house themselves, but will have information about those available.
  • SOWODI. An international organization helping victims of human trafficking. They also work in Germany and operate safe houses there.

Good news for my truck, it got MOT again ("TÜV") so I can move around a bit. Used the opportunity for a nice little tour. Including: buying some parts for my "living space" in a hardware store; overnighting under 380 kV; a visit to a hydraulics workshop (leaving 230 EUR for three new hoses for my truck's winch, phew!); and a nice afternoon of cycling in the forest. See pictures!

Speaking of forests: I had an idea how to make staying with the truck in forests less of an issue. Because officially, in Germany you're only allowed to overnight at one spot in your car for one night only, "to re-gain fitness for driving". Everything else is tolerated to some extent, but can cause you problems. (Which is mostly limited to being told to drive away … .) But when I saw a lot of trash at the entrance of the protected forest where I stopped for cycling, it led to this idea: I'll see what happens when I always collect some trash from forests I live in with the truck. When some forest ranger, police person etc. wants me to leave, I prove that I am beneficial to the place, and they might let me stay. Especially when I can show them from my blog that it's a habit. So, expect quite some pictures of trash in the future! laugh The first one is below, collected 2009-09-14 at this beautiful place (50.580852,8.731282). It's essentially a way of commoning: pay nature for a nice place by taking its trash.

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Over the recent months, I spent quite some hours thinking about adequate logistics systems for rural, hilly Nepal. Especially for the villages not having road connections for now – is getting "the road" really the only way of development? Because with the road comes pollution, road accidents, and a faster pace of life. Actually, transport for people is not that much of an issue (except for medical emergencies of course): for their occasional travels to the cities, people walk to the next road / bus stop.  Means we only need a solution for transporting goods: the big problem is indeed load transportation. Where this takes much effort, access to market is difficult, earning money is difficult, and supply is difficult. Load transport has to be more efficient (in personal time units) than relying on porters, carrying things oneself, or using mules. Aerial ropeways are one solution for this, but the problem is that they require a lot of additional infrastructure, and the cost of that hinders the widespread deployment (they are also infrastructure with a single point of failure, which was the demise in previous ropeway installations in Nepal). This is not the case when reusing the existing foot path network!

So here is a proposal that I think is my best idea for this so far. It would put Nepal into the same league with the countries most advanced both in electrical transportation and autonomous vehicles, while at the same time needing no additional roads or other infrastructure. The technology is cheap and can be managed locally (given some training).

The basic idea is a narrow (max. 80 cm wide) autonomous vehicle for load transportation on foot tracks. I propose it would be a transporter built with bicycle parts like an electric cargo quadrocycle, but without a place for a rider. It can navigate using a line on the ground, or optical beacons, or a guide wire. Each would be able to carry about 40-100 kg, depending on the exact design. It will be powered by a relatively small Li-Ion battery and recharge with photovoltaics cells that it carries as a roll with it, and deploys on the roadside in sunny spots when it has to charge. (Alternatively, there could be charging stations every few kilometers, but that is less flexible and more expensive for the first few vehicles.) Frequent charging stops are not a problem when transportation is automated. And since standard bicycle parts are used, maintenance and repairs are simple and cheap. For example, wheels should be standard 26" mountain bike wheels. These vehicles will be slow (say 3 km/h uphill, 8 km/h on flat terrain, up to 15 km/h downhill) and can carry much less than trucks, but since they are autonomous, they can drive all day and even through the night (at least the way back downhill, and also uphill if having access to grid-connected charging stations in houses along the way). Also, even with modern jeeps but safe driving you get hardly 8-10 km/h when offroad driving on "roads" in Nepal's hills (been there, done that) – so the autonomous vehicles will be just a bit slower given that they can shortcut the road with footpaths.

For energy storage, free, used 18650 Li-Ion cells harvested from notebook batteries, powertool batteries and the like are a more affordable and more economic solution than ultracapacitors – it is more economical even though ultracaps do not wear down. Because to cover 1 km between charging stations at 17% slope uphill with a 80 kg total weight bicycle, about 33 Wh are needed, which cost 430 EUR in supercapacitors at 13 EUR/Wh. Li-Ion cells on the other hand are free when harvesting used ones, and can be used for 1000-2000 cycles if charging to only 3.92 V/cell. Assuming 1500 cycles and one cycles per day on average, that's 4-5 years on one battery pack until it degraded to 70% its original capacity (and even then, it can still be used).

The Li-Ion battery has to be large enough to allow a 1.5 W load per cell or lower, since that is how used cells last the longest (due to their reduced current carrying capacity). That is easily solved by letting the vehicle go a very slow speed, which is also great for reducing breakage and maintenance anyway. At (say) 3 km/h, driving 15% uphill with a 80 kg total weight vehicle will need about 100 W, so about 66 Li-Ion 18650 cells (very doable). At 2 Wh/cell typical charge capacity (3 Wh/cell remaining capacity, charged to 3.92 V/cell or about 66% capacity), this means 130 Wh total energy content, or 80 minutes of driving, covering 4 km. So a reasonable proposal would be 100-cell batteries and recharging approx. every 5 km (or further, depending on how steep the uphill slope is).

The low power needs of 100 W maximum (or even just 50 W maximum if reducing the uphill speed to half) mean that DC motors from battery power drills can be used. These are available nearly for free second-hand. No gearbox is needed, since a max. speed of 3 km/h is acceptable and the motor can cover a range of 0-3 km/h by itself by just using a PWM motor controller as integrated in power drills. For a constant reduction gear, one can simply use a bicycle chain gear, a bicycle chain, and a very large (ca. 30-40 cm diameter) DIY gear mounted to the bicycle wheel. Each wheel or each axle can have its own DC motor, and the DC motors incl. the reduction gear mechanism of the front axle would simply move with the wheel when it is steered. This way, the vehicle is a 4×4, making it much more capable on muddy tracks.

In addition, it should be possible to tow this vehicle as a bicycle and motorcycle trailer, allowing to move it faster when accompanied by a person. This is useful to move it around within a settlement, or when it broke down and has to be towed to a workshop. Also in addition, the vehicle should have a simple display with a selection mechanism so people can select its next destination. This allows to build a network of paths using optical beacons, but also requires that the vehicle can navigate bifurcations etc., and determine its position.

Another advantage of transport on foot tracks is that these transporters can use the small wire bridges which are popular in Nepal's hilly area and mountains. No need to create much more expensive, heavy-weight bridges for cars. In addition to using foot tracks and wire bridges, the transporters could even be enabled to use aerial ropes by themselves (hooking themselves to them with an overhead arm, rolling along them, hooking off at the end). This allows shortcutting the way over creeks (where a bridge is not existing or much further) and also to navigate aerial 1-3 km ropeways to go a shortcut over difficult mountain terrain. The cheap battery power enables this new kind of ropeway. What makes it esp. cheap is that it only needs bamboo towers and a single steel rope (or chain or fabric belt), no moving elements at all. The carriages will propel themselves along the rope with rubber wheels on top and below the carrying rope (or, in the case of chains, hard rubber or plastic wheels with cavings to grab the chain elements). Also, since footways are used for most of the way, only a bit of new construction is needed, driving down costs further.

To make operating this device possible in the long term (means, incl. maintenance), it would be operated as a service, with village people paying to get items delivered to and from their village, or later also to other places (like, to and from their fields). This is in contrast to people owning their own vehicles. The operators would have to be technologically skilled, perhaps young people from a nearby city creating a startup. Though I am not sure yet what the fees could be and how profitable a company would be offering this as a service. However, such a company has the advantage that scaling comes with cost advantages: one team can operate a fleet of 100-200 of these devices driving around in one district. They will all operate autonomously, until they break (in which case, they can be towed by another device and collected in a workshop until the travelling operators get there).

I'm not saying that constructing such a robot is simple, but it is much simpler than building one for full-scale city traffic. It can completely avoid roads, since there is always a footpath available in Nepal as an alternative route. And on footpaths, the wort that can happen is encountering a mototcycle. Having a flashing beacon light on its top will help, and a simple protocol like "autonomous vehicle will stop at the side of the road when you honk three times, so you can overtake it safely". Which would make it the 1001st use of the horn in Nepal 😀

So I just finished another little project: my new entrance ladder. Ok, let's say it's finished except for a layer of paint, as always. All paint jobs pile up for when I have no urgent needs and will start to care how things actually look 😛

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This shows the truck's right side, with the door to the living area open. The new ladder is hooked for storage to the inside of the door and will only be in use (means hooked below the door) when the truck parks on the roadside or otherwise in confined spaces where the normal stairs cannot be used. Or, like now, where the normal stairs exist only in pieces laying around …

The reason I'm writing this is to illustrate how a few pieces of trash and a few hours of time, mixed in the right way, can become useful items for everyday use. Here are the ingredients:

  • ladder hooks on door: self-made, bent to shape from 3 mm stainless steel; originally this was a broken bumper bar at the truck's box body that I had to cut off, so it's free …
  • blue mounting plate: leftover pieces from big aluminium 2 mm metal sheets that I bought from the junkyard to create door and window frames; originally all this were commercial signs at a MOT station; maybe back then I paid 0.40 EUR for the amount used here?
  • steel ladder: basically free trash, since I cut it out from the leftover back part of a tractor trailer that I had to shorten for a friend
  • lower holder: tool holder from the wooden leftover body of a 1953 firefighter truck which I burned one winter in the wood stove of my truck
  • hooks below door (not shown): bent from 5 mm steel that came as a leftover 20 cm slice of a MAN truck frame
  • nuts and bolts below door (not shown): stainless steel nuts and bolts I sorted from a 5 kg package of mixed overstock material I bought on eBay for 20 EUR … let's say these are 0.20 EUR again all together
  • rivets: seven are found by sorting a big free bucket of nuts and bolts; five are bought (0.20 EUR each?); one of them I shortened because I did not have the right length at hand (how to? remove pull pin, cut off a bit of the rivet head, put in pull pin, remove grate with file)
  • PU sealing agent: used as glue behind the blue base plate and lower holder; bought, used amount might be worth 1 EUR
  • cutting and sanding disks: I used a 125×1 mm angle grinder cutting disk half, and a 125 mm sandpaper disk half … together about 1.40 EUR
  • electricity: the sun did not send me an invoice yet

Which makes for a total monetary investment of 4.00 EUR, or 4.55 USD. I'm still ok with that amount 😀

Of course I could also have bought an entrance ladder. Why didn't I? For one thing, it is difficullt to find something that fits here (I looked once, and only found fitting ones from yachting accessory for at least 100 EUR). And then: While this might be uneconomical in monetary terms for me now, I am learning and getting better at building my own stuff. It's an investment into the future, because I discovered that building your own stuff grants you a form of freedom. How so? Because you can always build some simple, useful items you need, and this way you can always cover some of your needs without a paid job. Just free trash and free time needed. Now what if we could build everything we need from trash? Would we still fear "unemployment"? Would we still accept hiearchies in the workplace, strict time regimes, uninhabitable and ugly offices, bad pay?

With projects like these, I'm exploring how much freedom there is in free trash. I know about efficiency issues with DIY building, the need for automation and so on. But it's just the start, and so far I cannot even see the end: open source tech solutions are getting more powerful every day. (Have a look at EarthOS if you are not convinced yet, it's my collectionf of "open source solutions for everything in life".)

So this is my home now, a 4×4 ex-firefighter truck from 1976. Bit older photo, but from the outside it still looks like this. Except it has a licence plate, means it's street legal now. It's misssing some creative lettering though. I plan to write "UM" on it's side in big black letters one day, to confuse some gangstas. I think they call it mimikri in the animal kingdom, and it's perfectly legal there laugh

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For introducing you to this little beast called "Erwe", know this: I have just this place to live and work now and these 9 m² just fit me (ceiling is 1 cm above my head). But I own this one, which is a relief: no rent, no interest, just a bit of vehicle tax. And while I say I live in it, don't expect a living room. It's more meant to be an expedition truck for the decades to come laugh So, you'll find lots of waterproof boxes instead of furniture, more truck tools than kitchen tools, and even a beautiful aluminium carpet (pictured below). Not sure where my expeditions will go and what my tasks will be – currently it looks like I want to go to the Balkans or Southern Italy and see what I can understand and do about the refugee situation there. More ideas are always welcome.

For the moment, my life in this setup works like this (going along the images):

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(1) Say it is winter, so fire up the wood stove first thing in the morning and go to bed for 20 min more until it's all heated up. Not much wood (or free pine cones laugh) needed, since I live in a former deep freeze box used for fish. Insulation is 10 cm PUR foam all around, equivalent to 20 cm styrofoam. In German winter, I needed a bit more than one Eurobox (60×40×30 cm) of wood per week.

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(2) Make hot water and have a coffee. Coffee machine is very simple yet, so not for coffeephiles for the time being … still looking for an oversized version of these stovetop espresso machines somewhere …

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(3) Put "bed" into workshop mode. Toolboxes are normally stored under the bed, in the middle of the four used Zarges A10 aluminium boxes on which the mattress rests. That seems like a strange choice for a bedframe, but I store everything in stackable boxes here so that moving without the truck to another place for longer is just about shipping my stuff on one pallet (ca. 80 EUR with a trucking company within Germany, or ca. 300 EUR half around the world in a container as LCL). Also note my little assortment of "clubbing utensils" visible to the right, fixed handy right next to the door for personal security. There's a large MagLite flashlight, basically the only heavy item you may carry when opening the door at night and find police in front (which I expect to happen a lot while travelling). And a bamboo stick, as used by the friendly Nepal Armed Police forces cheeky I brought it from Kathmandu last year, after the earthquake made our garden wall fall on the poor bamboos.

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(4) Work on some "home improvement" or "workshop improvement" project. One of my latest projects was creating "sun powered" 24 V power tools, as shown. I do not use an inverter to make 240 V AC from my 24 V DC solar system (because inverters are only ~85% efficient, quite expensive when sizing them for powertools – and worse, they break, and they produce electricity unsafe to touch … while my 24 V DC is safe for all my DIY purposes). So instead, I selected a series of cordless power tools with input voltage that fits for my 24 V DC, like the Milwaukee V28 series shown here. Then bought a defective replacement battery on eBay (ca. 7-12 EUR), removed the LiIon cells from it and connected a cable to plus and minus instead. Plug it into the socket and it will work – no need to connect the temperature sensor (the central pin). Just make sure your sockets are fused, and the fuses can take 35 A – the circular saw draws 800 W max., angle grinder 500 W max., power drill I have to see, did not use it above 150 W so far). If you want to replicate this, also note the cable and plug. Cable is 4 mm² copper cable, of which the cheapest and most available solution is buying speaker cable, and the plug is not a normal 12 V / 24 V cigarette lighter plug as they can's stand more than 12 A – instead I use SpeakON STX series plugs from PA / music equipment, which can stand 40 A normally and 70 A when using all four pins and a special cascading fuse setup ­– also these plugs are rainproof and made from sturdy aluminium, I really like them.

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(5) Have a meal right in the middle of your home construction site mess and wonder if it will ever be a "normal" place to live. Just in that last unsuspecting picture, there are some more not-so-normall things to observe when you look closely:

  • I might find a bench vise next to the food. Perfectly normal here. Because it is not fixed, it can move. I mounted it on a small base plate and it likes to move around a lot …
  • There are two boxes of small drills and milling bits for a rotary tool that I found, fixed and converted to be "sun powered" as well. Just use any adjustable 24 V DC-DC notebook adapter fitting for the input voltage of the rotary tool, and make a power tip adapter from an exchangeable tip of the notebook adapter which you don't need for your own notebook …
  • Then ther's my own notebook, and if you look closely to the back left of it, you see a DC plug that has been tampered with. I had to make my own DC tip because it was impossible to buy a 24 V DC-DC converter coming with the right tip … . But it works flawlessly now, means it's a "sun computer" (minuscle s!).
  • There's a PUR foam insulation block I use in the window over the winter and also as an improvised curtain in the evening. It helps, but I should cover it with something pretty I guess frown
  • There's a wood stove with an orange metal belt made from the roof of an old street roller, keeping it to the wall.
  • Fork and spoon are used ones from German Army, produced sometime in the mid 1960s. Very sturdy, available for cheap on eBay, and they can be neatly arranged for transport when travelling with a backpack.
  • There's a battered table that is at least 35 years old (I know becaus it's from my childhood … hehe), now featuring a line of holes at the back by which it holds on to the grid hole system I use in the truck (compatible with OpenStructures and Gridbeam).

Hope you enjoyed being introduced to some of the not-so-normal objects in my home … many more waiting in the line, it's literally full of them here. As you saw, I rather build something from trash metal or pre-owned stuff than spending money to buy it. And srsly, I don't care how these things look, just that they work, don't break, and don't cost much. To me, every alternative is so much better than forced labor in a nonsensical fulltime job just to have money for buying shiny new things.